10 myths about fertility treatment you need to know

Infertility is defined as the inability to give birth to a child after 12 months of trying. And it’s probably more widespread than you may think, affecting 1 couple in every 10 American couples.

Couples can play a high price for infertility. It can be all consuming, and lead to depression, anxiety and even increased divorce rates.

And it’s tough enough trying – and failing – to fall pregnant month after month without people ‘helpfully’ sharing common myths with you. From myths that cruelly (and incorrectly) rob you of hope, such as “Fertility is incurable”, to those that equally cruelly fill you with false hope, like “You just need to relax or adopt and you’ll fall pregnant.”

Trethowans
Trethowans

So, if you’re tired of hearing some of these myths, or are unwittingly spreading them, we thought we’d explain why 10 of the most common are false – and why.

1) Young people can’t be infertile

While it’s true that older men and women are more likely to be infertile, it doesn’t mean that younger people can’t suffer from infertility too.

A woman in her early 20s has the best odds of success, with roughly a 25% chance of conceiving after three consecutive months of trying. After the age of 30, the odds of achieving a natural pregnancy are reduced to 20%. And over the age 40 they drop to 7% during each month of active attempts.

But while your twenties may be the best biological time to get pregnant, it doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily going to happen for you. As Richard Paulson, M.D., chief of the division of reproductive endocrinology and infertility at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California says:

“No one is immune to infertility. While women in their 20s generally have good egg quality, all the other causes of infertility can still be present, such as tubal issues and low sperm count in the male partner.”

2) Infertility is a female issue

A commonly held belief is that infertility is more common in women than it is in men. However, this is not the case.

Research by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine shows that 35% of infertility issues are attributed to the female partner, 35% to the male partner, 20% of infertility to both partners, and 10% to unknown causes.

3) You don’t need to worry about infertility if you already have a child

Just because you fell pregnant naturally once doesn’t guarantee that subsequent pregnancies will be that easy. Secondary infertility, when you have trouble conceiving after successfully becoming pregnant at least once before, is more common than you may think – accounting for as much as 30% of all infertility.

There are a number of causes of secondary infertility:

  • Ovulation disorders
  • C-section scarring
  • Problems with the uterus or fallopian tubes
  • Infections
  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Age
  • Unexplained reasons

Dr. Aarti Vazirani an infertility expert at Doctorspring says: “Secondary infertility may be caused by various changes that come with age and time. For instance, you may be having an underlying medical or fertility condition that gets worse with time, making it hard to conceive again.”

4) Your chances of conceiving increase when you have sex daily 

Despite rumours, you don’t need to have sex every day to increase your chances of conceiving. This rumour was given legs by a study that found that “a lot of sex may prepare a woman’s immune system for pregnancy”.

However, the study didn’t actually follow participants up to see if they really did fall pregnant. NICE’s guidelines also contradict the findings:

“People who are concerned about their fertility should be informed that vaginal sexual intercourse every 2 to 3 days optimises the chance of pregnancy.”

5) You can conceive with fertility lubricants without needing fertility treatment

When you’re truing to get pregnant and finding it hard, sex can become stressful – especially if you’re having intercourse ‘on demand’ during your fertile window.

And if you’re not aroused, it can be quite painful. So sperm friendly lubricants, on these occasions can certainly help make getting pregnant easier. But in themselves they are not a fertility treatment:

“There is no evidence couples using sperm-friendly lubricants will get pregnant faster, and also no reason to believe they will help a couple get pregnant who had been struggling to conceive.”

6) You are more likely to get pregnant if you adopt

Search the media and you’ll find plenty of stories of couples who adopted after years of unsuccessfully trying to conceive their own baby – only to fall pregnant. But is this really a ‘thing’? And is there any scientific proof that adopting a child can increase your chances of natural conception?

Not according to Resolve, the National Infertility Association, who say categorically that “it is simply not true. Studies reveal that the rate for achieving pregnancy after adopting is the same as for those who do not adopt.”

7) You need to relax

Another popular myth is that infertility is a psychological disorder that can be cured by just relaxing. But infertility is a physical condition of the reproductive system or disease.

And while it will certainly help improve your overall quality of life, stress levels and emotional state, simply ‘relaxing’ or thinking positively isn’t going to fix a physical problem with your fallopian tube or caesarian scarring.

8) You just need to keep trying

It’s important that you seek professional medical help if you do not fall pregnant naturally.

According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, couples under the age of 35 who have failed to conceive after 12 months of regular, unprotected sex during peak ovulation cycles should seek help from a fertility specialist. If you’re over the age of 35, then get assistance after six months. that time frame is decreased by half. 

Many types of infertility can be treated with help:

“At least 50% of those who complete an infertility evaluation will respond to treatment with a successful pregnancy. Some infertility problems respond with higher or lower success rates. Those who do not seek help have a “spontaneous cure rate” of about 5% after a year of infertility.”

9) IVF leads to triplets and quadruplets

While it’s true that 46% of IVF births are multiples (usually twins), it’s not the aim of IVF. In fact, doctors don’t want you to have a multiple birth if possible as these are riskier for the mother and babies.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 37% of IVF babies who are multiples are born premature. In contract, only 3% of babies born without fertility treatments are twins, and of those about 12% are preterm.

The rate of triplet births is also declining – between 1998 and 2011, the national rate of triplet and higher-order births decreased by nearly 30%.

10) Fertility is incurable

If you’re worried that you’ll never fall pregnant, we’ve got good news for you. Thanks to advances in medical treatment, 85% to 90% of infertility cases are treated with conventional medical therapies, such as medication or surgery, as well as assisted reproductive techniques like in vitro fertilization (IVF).

Whatever the cause of your infertility is, your doctor can come up with a customized treatment plan for you to help you get pregnant.

Photo by Camylla Battan